Sunday, September 25, 2022

World Record Again

Eliud Kipchoge has broken the world record in the marathon, coming in at just over 2 hours and 1 min. He thinks breaking 2 hours is possible. If it seems fascinating in the world of numbers that the record for an idiosyncratic distance could converge on an integer in an event measured in units 1/3600 as small, it is not really that odd.*  It does have an almost poetic sound to it, however, to run a marathon in two hours. It was about 2:15 when I started following track, by Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia - who ran it at the Rome Olympics. It wasn't until the 1964 Olympics that I started to become aware.  Bikila did it barefoot.  Take that.

Kipchoge is older (37, just looked it up) but thinks he can do better still. It's hard to count him out at this point.

*There are a lot of events, so the record for one converging on an integer, when they are always improving, isn't that strange. Running the 100-yard dash in 10 seconds had already been accomplished before 1900 and now it is converging on 9 seconds.  The race is seldom run, however. The 100 meter is what is run now, and that converged on 10 seconds in the 1960s. The 4-minute mile was first run in the 1950s and the record is well below that now. High jumping 8 feet - a foot is an unusual measure; pole-vaulting 20 feet, ditto. Simple numbers show up all the time.

Zachriel said...

People waited expectantly for someone to break the 4:00 mile barrier, and while people kept trying to break the record, no one was waiting expectantly for someone to beat the 3:54 mile barrier. The 3:54 mark is just some number less than 4:00.

"I remember the day Michel Jazy broke the 3:54 mile barrier!"

People are funny that way. They'll watch expectantly for the odometer to roll over, as if 100,000 is significantly different from 99,987 or 100,034.

Ganzir said...

"Running the 100-yard dash in 10 seconds had already been accomplished before 1900 and now it is converging on 9 seconds."

Right, but here we're dealing with a far smaller range. The difference between 9 seconds and 9.1, as a fraction of total time, is smaller than the difference between 2 hours and 1 hour 59 minutes. It's like how if 20 people move into a tiny town, this is a substantial demographic shift, but if 20 people move into Manhattan, it's negligible.

Christopher B said...

One could just as easily claim it is illogical to celebrate the anniversary of one's birth or marriage because any one day of being alive or married is pretty much just like the any other one. What's being celebrated, as Ganzir notes obliquely, is the passage from the previous mark.

Zachriel said...

Ganzir: Right, but here we're dealing with a far smaller range. The difference between 9 seconds and 9.1, as a fraction of total time, is smaller than the difference between 2 hours and 1 hour 59 minutes.

You make a good point, but you might want to check your maths. (1/90 > 1/120)

Ganzir: One could just as easily claim it is illogical to celebrate the anniversary of one's birth or marriage because any one day of being alive or married is pretty much just like the any other one.

It's not logical to celebrate. “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.”

Zachriel said...

Oops. Second quote should be attributed to Christopher B.

Ganzir said...

Yes, Zachriel, I meant 'larger than'.